For two consecutive years, Robin Soderling was in the spotlight in Paris, putting his picture on the covers without winning the Roland Garros title! In 2009, Soderling stunned world no. 1 Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, delivering the Spaniard's first loss at his beloved Major!
Since 2004, Nadal had lost just two matches on clay in the best-of-five format, with the first of those standing as one of the biggest surprises in tennis history! Ranked 25th, the Swede had only 15 Major wins before Paris, failing to reach the fourth round.
He had never beaten Nadal in three encounters, winning just one game in Rome a few weeks earlier on the same surface. The Spaniard entered the Roland Garros clash as the clear favorite, winning all 31 previous matches in Paris and chasing the fifth consecutive crown.
Rafa had lost just 24 games in the opening three rounds, facing Robin Soderling, who was on a different level that day. Soderling toppled Nadal 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and 30 minutes on Philippe Chatrier for his career-best win and one of the biggest surprises in the history at Majors.
Rafa certainly wasn't at his best (he would miss the grass season due to knee tendinitis), although we can't take anything from Robin's victory, doing just about everything right to earn the win fair and square.
Hitting the ball on the rise from both wings, Soderling tamed his groundstrokes to avoid cheap errors that would have cost him at least one more set if he wasn't careful.
Robin Soderling defeated Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at Roland Garros.
Nadal had only four break chances in the entire encounter, converting two and suffering five breaks from six opportunities offered to the Swede, losing the edge in the pivotal moments to hit the exit door.
He was beaten badly in the mid-range exchanges between five and eight strokes, with Soderling engineering the rallies more efficiently to earn the upper hand. The Swede was on the level terms with his rival in the most extended exchanges that saw ten strokes or more, with Nadal lacking power in his shots and the mental endurance that would guide him towards the victory and the place in the quarters.
A year later, Soderling scored his only victory over Roger Federer, toppling the defending champion 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours and 30 minutes, staying on the course towards another Roland Garros final. Describing it as his finest Roland Garros win, Robin took advantage of the slower conditions, won three points more than Roger and earned four breaks that carried him over the finish line.
"Victory over Roger Federer in 2010 was probably my best performance in Paris; I played well against Rafa a year earlier, but even better versus Roger 12 months later. The conditions helped me a lot, slowing the court and reducing Roger's quick strokes' pace.
The slower conditions worked in my favor, leaving me enough time to prepare my heavy groundstrokes and attack Roger. It was a perfect day for me to beat Roger, and I used that with both hands," Robin Soderling said.